Football Focus: Breaking down three of top five goals of the week

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Instead of taking an extended look at any particular team based on match play, this week’s Football Focus looks at some of the top goals of the week. Taking three of the more tactically inclined goals from the top five this weekend, let’s take a closer look at strikes from Willian, Luis Suárez and Adnan Januzaj:

No. 5: Willian’s first goal for Chelsea

Willian curled a shot inside the far post for his first Chelsea goal, against Norwich City on Sunday, sealing the Blues’ 3-1 win. He took advantage of poor defensive pressure followed by a small window of opportunity to score his opener.

source:  As Willian dribbles at the Norwich defense, he is under no immediate pressure. Sébastien Bassong could step up to him, or Alexander Tettey could track back further to apply pressure. Either way, the defenders would still have plenty of time to track passes to Oscar on the left or Samuel Eto’o on the right.

Essentially, the Canaries have four defenders back, and nobody pressures the ball.

source:  That allows Willian to dribble to the top of the penalty area before deciding to dish the ball wide for Eto’o. Bassong should track Willian’s run, as the closest defender, which he does. However, he could be farther goal-side and ball-side to keep the play in front of him.

Bassong correctly stops tracking Willian when the Chelsea attacker strays outside of the center back’s zone of responsibility. At this point, his task is to provide cover for Martin Olsson, in case Eto’o cuts in.

source:  Eto’o does just that, but Bassong is barely too far away to step up and win the ball cleanly. When Bassong steps up, Olsson should be able to release and mind Willian on the wing. Instead, three players reach into the tackle, as Jonny Howson also tracks back.

The ball pops free to Willian, who really only has time to take one touch. He makes it count.

No. 3: Luis Suárez scrambles to score

Since returning from his 10-game suspension, Luis Suárez has scored three goals for Liverpool. His goal on Saturday against Crystal Palace sparked a 3-1 win and showed his determination inside the penalty area.

source:  As Suárez receives the ball wide, José Enrique is in position to provide a two-on-one isolation, especially since Palace’s defense is slow to shift. Daniel Sturridge is the only other Liverpool attacker in a dangerous position right now, and he can easily be passed off among defenders so they can slide to cover the immediate danger, which is the ball.

source:  Suárez plays the ball for Enrique, and the Palace defenders’ eyes stay glued to the ball. That allows Suárez to run behind Mile Jedinak, staying on the midfielder’s back shoulder and virtually invisible. That puts Suárez in great position to receive a cutback from the endline, which is one of the most dangerous attacking passes.

source:  When Enrique plays the ball back toward Suárez, Jedinak allows the ball to run because he doesn’t Suárez behind him. By the time Jedinak and his teammates’ focus shifts, Suárez is in position to score a scrappy goal, even after taking an extra touch and falling over.

No. 2: Adnan Januzaj caps dream first start with volley

Manchester United wunderkind Adnan Januzaj scored both of his team’s goals in a comeback 2-1 victory at Sunderland on Saturday, making manager David Moyes look like a genius for playing the 18-year-old. Januzaj’s second goal, a side volley, was particularly masterful.

source:  As Nani has the ball on the right wing, Januzaj is wide on the left. Sunderland’s back four is in fine shape, staying compact but prepared to spring wide if necessary. If Nani switches the ball to the left, Sunderland has plenty of time to shift while the ball travels.

source:  Januzaj starts to make his run toward goal as Nani prepares his cross. Wayne Rooney is the target, and he will draw most of the defenders’ attention. In this situation, the back-post run might be the biggest area of missed opportunity; most players simply choose not to make it, or they mistime it.

Still, as long as the Sunderland defenders have their heads on a swivel and recognize the run, it shouldn’t be dangerous. The cross isn’t great, as Nani decides to hit it with the outside of his right foot.

source:  Sunderland makes no real defensive errors on this play, aside from the weak clearance on Nani’s cross. Even so, as the ball heads toward Januzaj, the nearest defender provides immediate pressure on the ball. Just as Willian did in the above example, Januzaj only has one touch.

He also makes it count, emphatically scoring his second goal of the game — and the winner.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that there were zero positive results out of 2,250 COVID-19 tests taken in the period of Monday June 22 and Sunday June 28.

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With the eleventh round of testing now completed in the Premier League, a total of 14,307 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 18 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as games are now up and running after a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full on the latest result:


The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 22 June and Sunday 28 June, 2,250 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, one person has tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 7: 8-9 June – 1,213 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 8: 11-12 June – 1,200 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 9: 15-16 June – 1,541 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 10: 17-21 June – 1,829 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 11: 22-28 June – 2,250 tested, with zero testing positive.

Premier League odds: Matchweek 34

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Check out the EPL betting odds for the games in Matchweek 34, as the Premier League return continues with games coming thick and fast.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Take a look below at the odds for the Premier League games in midweek, as the action has resumed following the suspension on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Click on the link above to watch all of the games live via our platforms here at NBC Sports, while below are the individual EPL betting odds for each game via DraftKings.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League predictions ]

Also, click play on the video above to watch my predictions for the games and where you should focus your attention this weekend as the Premier League action continues to come right at us.


Matchweek 33

Tuesday, July 7: (+650) Crystal Palace v. Chelsea (-220), Tie: +335
Tuesday, July 7: (-152) Watford v. Norwich (+440), Tie: +285
Tuesday, July 7: (+125) Arsenal v. Leicester (+220), Tie: +245
Wednesday, July 8: (-835) Man City v. Newcastle (+2000), Tie: +245
Wednesday, July 8: (+310) Sheffield United v. Wolves (+107), Tie: +210
Wednesday, July 8: (+104) West Ham v. Burnley (+285), Tie: +235
Wednesday, July 8: (+510) Brighton v. Liverpool (-182), Tie: +320
Thursday, July 9: (+100) Everton v. Southampton (+270), Tie: +255
Thursday, July 9: (+425) Bournemouth v. Tottenham (-157), Tie: +310
Thursday, July 9: (+900) Aston Villa v. Man United (-315), Tie: +420

Crystal Palace – Chelsea preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby.

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

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As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea on Tuesday.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate, Scott Dann and James McCarthy as they were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Fikayo Tomori is also out.

What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on facing Chelsea: “They a very, very good team with many, many good players and, irrespective of our own position in this moment in time, all we can do is prepare for it, get ready for it and look forward to it – I do look forward to it, and I know all the players are looking forward to the game. I know we will do our best, work very hard and make life as difficult for them as possible. But we 100% aware of all the challenges, with the quality that they have, that they’re going to present us.”

Frank Lampard on the threat of Man United to their place in the top four: “They’re closest, they’re a very strong team, they’re in great form for a long period of time. They have got really good individual players. You have seen the momentum they have gained across their front three, all scoring, lots of goals. They’re the biggest threat from behind, but this is the Premier League. It looks that way today, but it’s how each team finishes the season.”

Odds and ends

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Prediction

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea.

Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Saint-Maximin to Arsenal

Kai Havertz to Chelsea
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In the latest Premier League transfer news Kai Havertz to Chelsea continues to gather steam, while Allan Saint-Maximin is linked with a move to Arsenal.

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Starting in west London, Kai Havertz continues to be linked with Chelsea and a report from the Daily Express says that Frank Lampard is willing to sell six players to sign the Bayer Leverkusen and Germany 21-year-old.

Per the report, Marcos Alonso, Michy Batshuayi, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Kenedy, Danny Drinkwater and Emerson Palmeri are the players Chelsea want to offload in order to afford a move for Havertz, plus bring in a new left back.

Havertz has been a star for Leverkusen during the 2019-20 season but they just missed out on qualifying for the Champions League and lost in the German Cup final at the weekend. Havertz is due to play for Bayer in the UEFA Europa League in August, but will he be a Chelsea player by then?

With Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech joining Chelsea this summer, Lampard has a host of attacking options to choose from but Havertz is seen as one of the top young attacking midfield talents and he can also play as a false nine. Chelsea would have to spend close to $112 million to sign him but if they can replace quantity with quality, this has to be the way to go for Lampard.

Chelsea are in a strong financial position given the money they saved during their FIFA transfer ban and with the market values currently low due to the coronavirus pandemic, they have pounced to sign Werner and Ziyech.

Saint-Maximin to Arsenal
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Switching to north London, Allan Saint-Maximin has been linked with a move to Arsenal once again. Saint-Maximin, 23, has been sensational since arriving at Newcastle from Nice last summer for $19 million.

The French winger is full of tricks and flicks and his unpredictability is key to his success, with four goals and four assists in all competitions.

According to a report from Le10 Sport in France, Arsenal are among the clubs trying to sign him this summer with Tottenham and Napoli also in the running. It is reported that Arsenal have contacted Saint-Maximin’s agents to see what he thinks about a move to north London.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette potentially leaving this summer, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka would be Arsenal’s main attacking threats, so they could do with some reinforcements in this area. Especially as Mesut Ozil appears to be out of Mikel Arteta’s plans.

Saint-Maximin certainly has the talent to be a main main on a top six team in the Premier League. Could we see his famous Gucci headband and somersaults coming to the Emirates Stadium?